Formal Report

Our focus on Climate Change during the 2007 Annual DPI/NGO Conference began in 2006, as a suggestion that year by Judy Lerner of Peace Action and Sister Joan Kirby, both long-term leaders in the New York community with worldwide reputations in peace building. A similar recommendation was made by Larry Roeder of WSPA (the World Society for the Protection of Animals) and the members of the DPI/NGO conference Networking SubCommittee, led by William Gellermann and Reverend Moses Williams. Many other topics were proposed that year, but the topic of climate change was chosen when its proponents noted that hard science from the IPCC had shown the threat to the planet from climate change to be dire, and that immediate action was needed not only by governments but also by civil society. Our recommendation was thus to build a coalition of all NGOs, not exclusively of those whose focus is on climate issues, consequently engaging the entire NGO community. In this way we attempted to go beyond an exclusively science-based effort toward a social one, one geared toward galvanizing civil society behind a theme of self-responsibility and team efforts. This concept of networking, which also included community-based initiatives, permeated the entire report, whether dealing with hard science concepts like risk reduction or broad political concepts like peacemaking. That said, we agreed that participating working groups should not function independently nor be compartmentalized, meaning that each community that developed its own report had to be willing to communicate with the others, livestock with water and tipping points, conflict with gender, etc., each learning from the others as they exchanged valuable lessons and ideas. As a result, the Networking SubCommittee took a lead role in stating that the annual conference should not simply be a conversation, but also had to set in motion actions that modify people’s behavior, a point often advanced by Sister Joan Kirby, a former Conference Chairperson. This activist tone spread from the Networking SubCommittee to the rest of the NGO community at the 2007 DPI/NGO Conference, thereby marking a distinct and unprecedented change in how annual conferences could be managed in the future. Since 1947, DPI (the UN Department of Public Information) and the NGO community have partnered in annual conferences to allow NGOs to meet, share ideas, and influence those policy makers from the UN and member states who attend. Until 2007, these events, though manifestly useful, were in essence little more than grand meetings: a topic was agreed upon, people attended the conference, held discussions, and then dispersed. Although information networking often continued, there was little if any organized postconference action. In 2007, a team of activists — Judy Lerner, Larry Roeder, William Gellermann, Moki Kokoris (the first Ukrainian woman to reach the North Pole) and Reverend Moses Williams — proposed the development of a consensus Declaration of common views with a mandate for future action. Underlying this proposal were the themes of taking personal responsibility for change and agreeing to continue the dialogue as long as the threat of climate change persists. This “longview” was a groundbreaking concept in the history of DPI/NGO conferences. Even though statements had been drawn up in the past, none was as detailed or demanding as the 2007 DPI Climate Caucus Declaration. A Drafting Committee, with Larry Roeder (Chair), Moki Kokoris, and William Gellermann as members, negotiated a strong draft declaration and offered to meet with all conference participants in order to build a practical document by consensus. This process was a prodigious effort. Because climate change and the solutions to its impacts can mean different things to different people, the Drafting Committee suspected that the Declaration would likely not satisfy everyone, especially since some proposals for fighting climate change can appear to be contradictory to others. A good example of such discord is the debate over nuclear power, which some groups categorically oppose while others are willing to tolerate or even support with certain restrictions. Another fact needing to be taken into account was that most of the participants were not climate experts. In context, this was considered to be a positive aspect because it compelled the committee to utilize the scientific data compiled for the IPCC report, thereby more convincingly
prompting NGOs to (a) recognize the threats of climate change as they relate to their respective
sectors, (b) lower their carbon footprint, and (c) agree to maintain a dialogue for action and
change that would reach beyond the scope of the report.
None of the previous DPI/NGO conferences had ever mandated its members to continue a
conference discussion after the event, at least to the extent of the 2007 effort. After many long
hours of intense negotiations – with input from numerous conference participants – the resulting
Declaration was accepted by acclamation on the last day of the conference, owing in no small
measure to efforts by the Chairman, Richard Jordan, Jeffery Huffines and others.
Thus began this report initiative, which is maintained on its own dedicated website rather than on
paper – a recommendation of the 2007 CONGO Conference in Geneva. (The Conference of
Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations). Many
different topic recommendations were proposed, though not all could be incorporated into formal
chapters due to the lack of volunteers. As it stands, thirteen working groups were formed, each
preparing a separate chapter. Links are provided for anyone wishing to read the entire report,
which is rather extensive. One hundred fourteen collaborators contributed to the development of
the thirteen chapters it contains. New chapters are expected to be added in 2009 as this
endeavor expands its scope, and participation by additional working groups is both sought and
encouraged. A few proposed examples appear in synopsis form at the end of this report, e.g.
sustainable energy, education and ocean waters; but other topics not yet claimed are available
and potential new ones solicited.
The first working group focused on fresh water, an appropriate choice inasmuch as water is
essential to life. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change suggests that climate change is likely to be associated with increased water stress in
much of Africa. Climate Caucus understands that although systemic causes of climate change
are increasingly being addressed at local, regional, and national levels, unless the supply of fresh
water is managed more quickly, the reduction of water sources will threaten the security of
nations, induce war as well as suppress minorities and basic freedoms in direct proportion to the
water supply reductions. African pastoralist societies have their roots in prehistoric times when
roaming nomads learned how to cope with a varied climate. Now, entire micro-societies are
severely stressed by anthropogenic climate change, as seen in Kenya’s wild north, and under
attack by recurrent drought. These conditions force nomadic peoples to settle near permanent
water sources. While the people will likely survive, their culture could be destroyed, since social
values come from migrating from one water source to another, from one pasture to another.
Now, watering holes and rivers are drying up, and animals dying by the thousands. Of the one
billion poorest people on the planet, over 750 million totally depend on livestock for a living, many
of which live in regions stressed by climate change. Eleven million people in the Horn of Africa
are in crisis, perhaps seven million on the brink of famine, their culture reduced from proud
pastoralism to a potential beggar society. Paradoxically, this is an area of uncertainty because
some models also indicate an intensification of the African monsoon and a greening of the Sahel
and southern Sahara as a plausible consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse warming.
The Maldives represent another clear case in point in today’s nexus of climate change and
national security relative to water, demonstrating the principle that the poorest are often the first
to suffer and the last to reap economic benefits. The past President of the Maldives, Maumoon
Abdul Gayoom, expressed worry that his island nation will disappear under the waves of rising
sea levels, an issue that the Oceans working group will delve into in 2009. This emerging chapter
will also explore the strengthening of sea defenses. For the Maldives to defend all of its nation’s
inhabited islands would cost a minimum of US $20 billion, well beyond the country’s capacity to
bear. Another case in point is the Arctic, where hunters are literally dying as a result of falling
through ever-thinning ice in their search for food.

 

The first recommendation of the water working group, one common to nearly all of the working
groups, is that civil society leaders need to unite and lobby for change within local industries and
government. This is a basic tenet of risk reduction and conflict management as well. Another
major recommendation speaks to how the larger Climate Caucus team proposes to continue its
work in 2009. Lobbying, of course, is sustainable only if it is based on solid evidence, and is best
done through coalitions, the establishment of which is one of the primary goals of
ClimateCaucus.net, which has taken a broad spectrum approach to linking science, policy,
religion, etc.. The group’s last recommendation was not agreed to by everyone; but it is worth
reexamining because it did show a willingness by the fresh water team to at least think outside
the box – something that all working groups should do in 2009. Given the nature of the threat to
life by the diminishing supply of fresh water, many members of that working group felt that civil
society must urge local and national authorities to establish a legal framework for climate change
responsibilities which would target polluters with legislated liabilities for measured harm, even at a
distance from the activity. This will require an entirely new measuring industry, national and local
water commissions that form their recommendations based on true science, and on regional and
global coordination through a UN Water Policy Commission (UNWPC), which could be one of the
components of a United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO), in whichever form that
concept takes shape. These commissions, working with the UNWPC, would then develop water
supply and pollution guidelines as well as funding opportunities for new water protection and
storage technologies that would be needed to ameliorate the growing global water crisis.

 

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